US sailors dig for homeless children


TWENTY American sailors braved the Dublin cold yesterday to dig a Dublin site, preparing a playground for Focus Point, the homeless support organisation.

The able-bodied seamen from the USS Aubrey Fitch, a guided missile frigate at Dublin Port until Sunday, demolished a wall and excavated foundations for a new 500 sq ft outdoor area.

The smell of barbequed burgers and sausages betrayed the relaxed nature of the endeavour, attracting children who shouted in vain for cans of Coke.

The US ambassador, Mrs Jean Kennedy Smith, welcomed the sailors' gesture and said she was impressed by the holistic nature of the Focus Point centre, at John's Lane West, off Thomas Street.

Jeremy Smith said he missed the Florida sunshine. "It's always overcast. You need to have the sun out more, but it breaks the monotony of being stuck on a ship," he said.

The newly refurbished building, a former national school and shirt factory, is a centre for homeless youths and will soon provide a drop-in creche facility and support services for parents.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, president of Focus Point, said family break-ups and the disappearance of neighbourhood support had created an unprecedented homeless problem among children.

"Last year we dealt with 3,000 newly homeless people and 25 per cent of those were under 25," she said. The section manager, Mr John Farrelly, added that there had been a massive increase in drug abuse among the homeless last year.